daily Broadcast

The Peace And Power Of A Prioritized Life, Part 1

From the series Balancing Life's Demands

Would you like to make this the best year of your life - no matter what happens with the economy, on your job, or even your health? It is possible! Chip explores how to balance the demands of life and prioritize the activities and relationships that matter most to you.

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Message Transcript

Well, as we get started, we’re going to talk about balancing life’s demands, and we’re going to talk about biblical priorities. We’re going to talk about aligning your life and your priorities, doing what’s important, in a way that God says, for two purposes, one, so that you fulfill His purposes and bring glory to Him, and, second, because when you do that, it is good for you.

His highest and best is achieved and accomplished when there is an alignment of your priorities with the way He has designed you and designed life to work. And when your priorities get out of whack, when the balance gets out of whack, it produces some painful things in you, in relationships, and often, significant damage.

You know what? Everyone needs to stop and look and evaluate at your priorities. Is your life in balance? Is it being lived the way God wants it to, for His glory and your good?

And so, to do that, here’s the format that we’re going to use. I’m going to give a little diagnosis. I’m going to give you six warning signs – you’ll see those – of misplaced priorities. So, I’m just going to go through – Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! – and you’re going to say, “Hey, you know, I think my priorities are here – good, good, good. Mmm, better check that one.”

So, let’s jump in together, and let me give you the six symptoms of misplaced priorities.

The first symptom is busyness. You can write that word in. Busyness, but barren of fruit. If your life is characterized where you’re hurrying all the time, you’re rushing, you’re driven, you eat on the run.

Dawson Trotman, the founder of the Navigators, said, “Emotion is no substitute for action, and action is no substitute for productivity.” Sometimes we get very, very active, very, very busy. I believe it’s the new worldliness. We are important because we’re busy; we’re on the move. I’ve got to do this; I’ve got to do that. I’m involved in this.

Second is emotional stress and pressure: anxiety. People whose priorities are out of whack have symptoms like an uptightness. They sometimes have chest pains, migraine headaches, trouble sleeping. You have this uneasy feeling. You feel restless a lot; it’s hard to sit still. You wish you could get your mind to slow down. Sometimes you find yourself going, [deep breath] I just need to take a deep breath. Because the RPMs inside your head – you’re multitasking about everything, all the time.

The third is what I call “low-grade, nagging guilt”. You feel bad about yourself. Again, it’s not just the restless feeling but it’s “not fulfilled.” There are a lot of things that you know you’re supposed to do. In fact, you did them in the past. You actually tell other people they should do them, but you don’t do them anymore.

The fourth is financial debt, financial problems. God speaks through your money. Jot down, just in your notes, Habakkuk 1, verses 1 to 10. God speaks to the prophet, and here’s a paraphrase of those ten verses: Because they were building their own homes and their paneled houses, and neglected the house of the Lord, God put holes in their purses. They made money, but it seemed to evaporate. God was lovingly trying to get their attention. You can’t figure it out. You know, we’re making this much money. We’re making more money than we ever have, but it just seems like… Oh, it seems like God puts holes in our finances. That’s because He loves you. He’s trying to get your attention.

The fifth symptom of misplaced priorities is prayerlessness, or leakage in the devotional life. If the truth is known – and you hope the truth doesn’t get known – but your deepest times in prayer are in the car, by yourself. Most of your prayers are very quick. Mostly, the best times are with other people. You have a hard time concentrating by yourself, because it’s been a very long time since you had an extended, honest, repentant, tearful cleaning of the slate with you and God.

The final one is – is escapism behavior. For us good Christians, it’s just a lot of excessive TV and a lot of time on email, and a lot of time doing things that make us feel like we’re accomplishing something, because down deep, we don’t know where we’re going. And our north star feels like it’s moved, and you don’t know, is there any way out? And I wish that did not describe an awful lot of believers’ lives, but I will tell you, as we get thousands upon thousands of emails, I hear it over and over and over and over.

In conclusion, these symptoms are always, in our minds, they’re temporary. They’re just small concessions. I mean, like, one or two of those things, it doesn’t mean you’re out to lunch and you don’t love God anymore; you’re ready for a divorce next week. They all start as just a little thing, and you’re going to fix them next week, and as soon as this season’s over, when this, you know?

But here’s what I want you to hear: They all begin a process. The big falls always start with little things like this. And one or two that you juggle, and then, pretty soon, there are three or four. “He who is faithful in a very little thing will be faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing” – Luke 16:10 – “will be unrighteous also in much.” And, “We’re going to get reconnected as a couple when… And the family will start some of that devotional stuff again, and we’ll get our finances in order and I’ll be able to give like I used to, and, you know, I know we need to have a budget, but, I mean, those credit cards – hey, you know what? Everyone has a window like this, but it’s real temporary because…”

And, yeah, it’s not a life-or-death deal, but 2 Samuel 11, verses 1 and 2 says, “At the time when kings went out to battle,” priority issue. After great success, “At the time when kings went out to battle,” when a king did what a good king is supposed to do, David decided he’d stay home. And then, Bathsheba and Uriah get penned in his autobiography.

These symptoms start to weave into your life, and you get vulnerable, and you get hurt, and you just want some relief. And you never think it’s possible for someone who loves God the way you love God – for any of that to ever happen.

But the right place, at the right time, in a weak moment, with these things happening – Bang! And all of a sudden, you’re the feature film in your own nightmare.

Those are the symptoms, and it raises a very important question then: If those are the symptoms, then what are the right priorities? I mean, God, help! What are the right priorities? And I’d like to say that I would like you to turn in your Bibles to 1 Priorities 1:9, and – but I don’t have that.

But there are two books that were written about the same time. They’re called the “twin epistles” – and I put a chart in your notes. And the twin epistles, one is written to say, “Church” – first three chapters – “this is what Christ has done for you!” Last three chapters of Ephesians: “This is how to live it out!” Colossians: “Church, this is the preeminence of who Jesus is, and this is how He wants you to live.” Last two chapters: “And this is how you live it out.” Written about the same time.

Now, what I want you to see, sometimes the structure of a book can tell you as much as the content. And so, the first half of both those books are all doctrine: This is who Jesus is. This is your relationship with Him. This is who you are in Christ. This is your adoption. This is your inheritance. This is what you actually possess.

And then, if you look at those charts, when they start talking about how to live it out. Chapter 4 opens – I love chapter 4, verse 1: “I, Paul, a prisoner of the Lord” – what’s he say? – “urge you, command you to walk in a manner worthy of your calling.” And that word for worthy, we get our English word axis.

And it’s this idea of, “For three chapters, I’ve told you all that you possess – beliefs. Now, let your behavior bring it into balance, so that your beliefs and your behavior tell the same story.” And the whole rest of the book is how you do that.

And it’s really interesting – and this is why small groups are so important. He doesn’t tell you, right after that, to go to church, read your Bible, or… He starts with relational issues. Then he says, “With all gentleness and humility, bearing with one another with patience, making every effort to maintain the bond that you already have, of peace.”

And so, what I want you to see is, when he opens up each of those chapters, notice the topic: Colossians 3 – how it starts. How it starts. You have God, mate, family, work, ministry. And it’s not in here, but implied elsewhere is, you have re-creation. You know, there’s a need to get recharged.

And so, I think it’s just interesting, as you go through those passages, it’s, okay, you know, Ephesians 5, we’re going to learn that, Hey, I need to be filled with the Spirit, my relationship with God. It goes right there to my marriage, to my children, to my work, and then to my ministry.

Now, the problem, I think, when we look at priorities, however, is, we tend to view them linearly. You know what I mean? Like, in a straight line? And so, here’s how I used to think about priorities – the problem is, it didn’t work. God is first in my life – good. I love You, God. Okay, my wife is second. Theresa, okay, I love you. God, God/Theresa, God/Theresa. I got that one down. Okay, hold up. What’s it – what’s it going to say? Oh, family. Family. Kids. Kids. Okay. God/Theresa/kids – that’s good. Good.

Okay, now, what comes after that? Ministry? No, no, no. It doesn’t say that. What’s it say? Eh, oh – work. Work? Yeah, because that’s your first ministry. That’s where you spend sixty, seventy percent of your time. Okay. And then, it would be like, Well, wait a second. Theresa’s sick, but – “Well, Theresa, I would love to you; I know you’re vomiting on the couch. But God is more important. So, I’m going to have my quiet time. See you later, honey.”

See, they don’t work that way. Life’s very confusing. It’s very demanding. You’re pulled in different ways. And so, I put a picture – this is a picture that has really, really helped me with priorities. It’s a fountain. Okay? It’s a multi-tiered fountain.

And here’s what I want you to – and let me read one verse, and jot this passage, because it’s really powerful. Jesus is speaking to the woman at the well. And I’m in John 4. I’ll read both 13, for context, and 14. And He says to the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks the water – this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst again. Indeed, the water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” “Welling up to eternal life.”

You might jot down Proverbs 4:23. Solomon would say the same thing: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the issues of life.”

And so, what I want you to see is, I want you to imagine that top rung, where it has “God.” I would like you to imagine there are little slits in it, little “Vs.” And each one of these – God, your mate, your family, your work, your ministry – and so, I want you to imagine that they have those little slits. And here’s how priorities actually work: Living in you is the Spirit of God. In John 6, He would say, “The Word that I speak to you is Spirit and it is truth. And dwelling in you is the same power that raised Christ from the dead.” And what our priorities are really all about is, what do you need in your relationship with Jesus, and the Father, and the Spirit, so that you’re full of Him, so that there is connection and abiding, so it can overflow into your relationship with your mate? And He’ll show you, what’s it look like? How much time? It’s different for every couple.

But just listen: What do you need? Is it fifteen minutes in the morning and practicing the presence of God? Is it an hour in the morning? I don’t know what you need! But I know it’s the Word, it’s prayer, it’s the community of believers, and it’s application.

And you walk and abide with Christ, and then the overflow of that is you treat your mate, empowered by the Holy Spirit and then that overflows to your kids, and that overflows to a high capacity, nurtured, loved husband or wife, who walks through the door and goes to work. And then, your work is done in the power of the Spirit, with the support of those relationships, and people wish they had a boss like you or an employee like you, because of who shows up.

And then, your work is a testimony, and then your ministry, in local church or kingdom expansion – do you see the difference? And so, it’s a fluid thing. And it’s the Spirit of God leading and showing you, in this situation, on this day.

Now, you develop certain structures we’re going to talk about. I mean, there are certain things I need to do with my time on a regular basis, certain things I need to do develop that with my wife, with my God, with my kids, in my work, and we’ll talk about those.

But don’t think of them as just linear. It never works that way, just a linear one, two, three, four. Think about it as, what do you need in every relationship so that the Spirit of God can allow love that you possess in your relationship with Jesus to come out of you into that relationship, and so you, if – especially if you’re married – with your wife or husband, love in such a way that that flows into the life of your kids.

And you know what? If it’s not happening here, don’t export it. See, what people do is, they get the flow in their relationship with God and maybe – but often not – with their mate, and then, since you get a lot more strokes at work, then they take all that energy and take it to work.

Or what a lot of women tend to do is, they may have it with God, and pretty soon, there are all these needs, and there’s such fulfillment in, “Mommy, I love you and I need you, and you helped my knee, and you did this, and you helped me with my homework. You’re the most wonderful person,” and that nurturing – and pretty soon, her second priority becomes the kids.

And so, he goes to work, she loves the kids, and they reconnect after twenty-five years of marriage. And that’s why, other than the first five years of marriage, the most dangerous zone of divorce is about twenty to twenty-five or twenty-five to twenty-seven years, depending on when your kids leave the nest. Priorities are about walking in the Spirit, and you can see a clear structure, but you don’t necessarily do them one, two, three, four.

Dwight Eisenhower made an interesting comment as president. He said, “The urgent is rarely important, and the important is rarely urgent.” The things that matter most, the things that will just take you down the road and help you become the person you long to be – there’s no gun to your head that says, “Develop a deep, intimate relationship with God. Study His Word,” when there are fifteen emails or a hundred and fifty emails to answer.

Well, how do you get a hold of them? I mean, how do you get a grip on it? We’ve looked at six ways that say, “You know what? These are indicators. These are, like, six lights on the dashboard of your life, telling you what’s going on in your soul.” And you know what? If you’ve got two or three of those flashing, God’s saying, “Hey, time out.”

And by the way, something I want you to hear. It will require – this is not one of those issues that you say, “Oh, I heard from God. I’m going to start tomorrow, and everything’ll be fine.” You didn’t get your priorities where they are, that affect so many relationships, overnight. They don’t change overnight. Someone has said, “Significant, lasting change never occurs without serious, prolonged thinking.”

The issue is not tweaking something. I’m not an expert, but I can just tell you, this is a smart group of people. If tweaking your priorities worked, they would already be fixed. because you’re smart people! I’m telling you, for many of you, what you have to realize is, What is my purpose? Why am I here? What season am I in? And it’s not tweaking, it’s saying, “I’ve got all these things on my plate. That doesn’t belong on my plate. That’s not God’s will; that’s expectations. That doesn’t belong on my plate. That was for the last season, but now, this doesn’t belong on my plate. Wait, this does, but I’ve got to make room. But that’s really good, and I’ve always done it, and I love it, and people give me so many…” Lordship. “Okay, Lord, this does.”

So, it’ll take time to think, to ponder. Priorities and balancing your life really have to do with getting really clear on who you are, what God wants you to do, and then getting a sense of holy urgency and realizing life is passing. And you’re going to die. And I’m going to die. And this unconscious, human thought that we have that, You know, I’m going to work on that next week, and so we spend our life responding to details and data, and feeling good about, I answered seventy-five of the hundred and fifty emails. I returned all the calls. I did my list. Is it the right list?! Are you doing the right thing?!

You know, you’ve got to stop. I mean, that’s why coaches, they just call time out. The momentum’s going this way; they scored three times in a row. “Hey, I don’t know what we’re doing, but it’s not the right thing.” And some of us, we have those misplaced priorities, and instead of stopping and saying, “Whoa, I’ve got to really reevaluate,” we go faster. “I’ll multitask more.”